Young immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children are facing a deadline today to renew their status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.
Last month, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the phase-out of DACA, which was created under the Obama Administration without legislative authorization from Congress. People holding the work permits can renew for another two years if their existing approval is set to run out before March 2018, by applying and paying a $495 fee.
Among U.S. counties, Orange County has the fourth-largest population of people eligible for DACA protection, with an estimated 54,000 eligible last year, according to data from the Migration Policy Institute.
Immigration advocates say they have been trying to get the word out to youth to sign up for the renewals if they’re eligible.
“Our main focus once the DACA announcement hit was to mobilize as quickly as possible to make sure the folks that were eligible to renew did renew,” said Faby Jacome, a program coordinator with Orange County Immigrant Youth United.
Advocates held five DACA clinics in Orange County – in Anaheim, Fullerton, Costa Mesa, Orange, and Lake Forest – to make sure people who were eligible for renewal did renew, she added.
Beyond the implications of the DACA program, she added, immigrant communities faced federal authorities separating U.S. citizen children from their undocumented parents.
Advocates cited the case of Israel Barrios Mendoza, who they described as a working father of six U.S. citizen children whom federal immigration authorities detained in his driveway as he was leaving for work Tuesday and transported to San Diego.
“Israel is the principal breadwinner for his household, a staunch supporter of his family, and an active volunteer at El Centro Cultural de Mexico,” according to a news release from immigration advocates distributed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
“Israel and his family have credible reasons to believe that his life will be in danger should he be deported back to Mexico.”
A spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Barrios Mendoza was apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol, and referred questions to that agency.
A Border Patrol spokesman confirmed Barrios Mendoza was arrested Tuesday outside his home in Santa Ana.
“Mr. Barrios-Mendoza is a Mexican national who was previously removed from the U.S. in 2013,” said Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Mark Endicott in a statement. “Prior to yesterday’s arrest, agents had established that Mr. Barrios-Mendoza was illegally residing in the U.S. and had no previously filed immigration petitions, or changes made to his immigration status.”
Asked if Barrios Mendoza has any criminal history, aside from living illegally in the U.S., Endicott replied via email, “We don’t have any additional information to release at this time.”
A few days after Sessions announced the phase-out of DACA, the top two Democratic Party leaders in Congress said they struck an agreement with President Trump to continue to protect DACA recipients in exchange for tougher border security.
But Trump denied a deal had been struck, and the talks over enshrining DACA into law have apparently stalled, leaving DACA recipients in a state of limbo.
“There is a lot of uncertainty” about whether youth eligible for DACA will be protected, Jacome said. They are “kind of like political pawns” now, she said.
Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at [email protected].